Premature greying, still a grey area

What is premature greying? Any individual with more than 50 percent grey hair before the age of 50 is said to be prematurely grey. Greying may be gradual or overnight. So why does the human hair turn grey?

We have cells in our hair follicles called melanocytes. These generate melanin, which in turn gives hair its colour. More the melanin, darker your hair. When melanin stops producing the pigment, it starts turning grey.

There are several causes for premature greying:

* Autosomal dominant genetic inheritance
* An underlying pathology like segmental progeroid syndrome
* Vitiligo
* Hypothyroidism
* Vitamin B12 deficiency
* Chemotherapeutic agents and drugs like chloroquine

Many age-related pathologies also have premature greying as a risk factor. There are several studies that have tried to understand the relationship between premature hair greying and the risk of myocardial infarction, osteoporosis and a shortened life span.

Treatment of premature greying depends on the causes of greying. A thorough investigation and detailed history is needed to understand the cause of greying. Lifestyle changes in terms of healthy eating and sleeping habits make a huge difference. Smoking and alcohol consumption should be reduced. Exercise is essential to increase the metabolic rate of the body and flush out harmful toxins responsible for greying.

Despite the recent girth of research on hair pigmentation and greying,
treatment and prevention remain elusive. There are several products in the market that do slow the process. However, a permanent solution or cure for those greying crowns of glory is yet to be created.

(The author is founder director, Hairline International)

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